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02-11-2010, 06:15 AM   #1
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Katzeye or AF Lens?

I picked up a manual 50mm f/1.7 this week. So far, I love the image quality and the fast aperture. Last night I got to put it, as well as my budding skills, to the test--a middle school sock hop in an old gymnasium. The lighting varied from a poor, grotesque yellow (easily corrected in PP) to colored DJ lighting. I'm quite pleased with the lens, but definitely need to work on a few things. In looking at a lot of the photos, I could have easily gotten away stopping down a stop or so for the sake of extra shutter speed.

My biggest problem was focusing. Obviously, I'm still getting used to the manual focus, but in such low-light conditions, I found it next to impossible to see what was in focus. I couldn't use the focus indicator on faces for the most part, as putting faces center screen included too much obnoxious background. I tried the focus/recompose trick, but with dancing kids, that's pretty much useless--in the fraction of a second that you recompose, they're out of focus again. I also tried some catch-in-focus, and that worked OK sometimes, but it was pretty much just slinging mud against the wall and hoping something stuck (not much did).

So I was thinking that a Katzeye focus screen might make things a bit easier. On the other hand, once I tally up the cost of the lens and the focus screen, I'm not too far from the price of an F 50 1.7. Granted, I'd be able to use the Katzeye regardless of which lens I'm using. But having various focal points available would be very nice, as would being able to use the continuous focus on the K20D.

Thoughts? Quit whining and learn to properly use a manual lens (which, I think, has intrinsic value)? Or embrace the newer technology?


Last edited by zombieCat; 02-11-2010 at 06:20 AM.
02-11-2010, 06:25 AM   #2
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New lens ain't gonna focus any better in poor light, I'd get the Katzeye. Helped me more than I thought it would. I have quite poor eyes and should get new glasses asap, since the last check both eyes have gone -1.
02-11-2010, 07:06 AM   #3
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you need to consider the long term, how many manual primes are you going to aquire.

Personally I like manual focus, when I have time to be patient, but also appreciate auto focus for convenience, and use both.

As I have upgraded cameras several times, I have one body presently set up with a diagonal split image, as my principle MF body.

I am thinking of either converting my *istD to split image, or picking up a second one, and making it a dedicated M42 body.
02-11-2010, 07:07 AM   #4
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What Horst said. The default focus screen in dslrs is a nightmare

02-11-2010, 07:18 AM   #5
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I Also ran into the same issue when I got a K50 1.4 for my K20D... what appeared to be in focus via the VF was clearly not.

catch in focus is 1 option... but as you said (mud slinging), it is a bit hit and miss as the focus confirmation is very generous.

I currently use 3 techniques...

1) only use wide open if you really need it.... stopping down your problems will dissapear as you have a wider dof.... however I suspect you use this lens when you really "need" it wide open.... bear in mind however that you can typically use the K20 till ISO1600... noise can be handled in PP and unless you pixelpeep looks good.

2) machine gun... knowing that the focus confirmation is hit of miss.... start where it appears to start being in focus and fire of shots while making incremental focus adjustments.

3) live view... can be a bit tedious but is far easier to see the thin dof... and hence get focus spot on while using live view....

I typically use options 1 and/or 3
02-11-2010, 07:19 AM   #6
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Personally, I am disapointed that the split screen focus was taken off DSLRs. With my MX and LX I became quite attached to the split screen focus. I got the Katzeye screen last summer for my K10D. But I also got the DA* 50-135 at the same time. So my need for the spit screen dropped significantly. Even with the DA* lens I still find the split screen handy to verify correct focus.
The Katzeye does alter the metering slightly so you may need to re-calibrate your metering, which I still have not done. Seems to be about 1/2 to 1 stop underexposed.
02-11-2010, 07:29 AM   #7
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The problem that I've run into is that when I get into situations where it is difficult to manual focus, the autofocus is useless as well.
Get the better focusing screen.
02-11-2010, 07:32 AM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by AOShep Quote
Personally, I am disapointed that the split screen focus was taken off DSLRs. With my MX and LX I became quite attached to the split screen focus. I got the Katzeye screen last summer for my K10D. But I also got the DA* 50-135 at the same time. So my need for the spit screen dropped significantly. Even with the DA* lens I still find the split screen handy to verify correct focus.
The Katzeye does alter the metering slightly so you may need to re-calibrate your metering, which I still have not done. Seems to be about 1/2 to 1 stop underexposed.
Split screens died with auto focus.

I looked once at the evolution of lenses and cameras and you can actually plot out a lot of changes on one side or the other that impacted both.

-open aperture metering impacted all lenses, and this was part of pentax's change to the K mount.
-TTL flash allowed for variable aperture zooms because you could let the camera meter the actual light and not have to tell the flash what aperture you were at.
-internal focusing was the forerunner to AF because it greatly reduced the mass of elements to move to attain focusing, and ultimately to HSM motors
-autofocus allowed for relitively slow wide to normal primes to become the standard kit lens because they allowed focus withouot a split image focusing aid that would be dark at F5.6
-Automatic aperture and lens contact information lead to the elimination of the aperture coupling because it was no longer needed,
-auto focus eliminated the need for split screens and allowed for bright micro prism focusing screens
-elimination of the split image allowed for spot metering

the list goes on and on

02-11-2010, 07:33 AM   #9
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Yeah - I'd also add that I tend to bracket the hell out of everything I do anyway, so there's usually an ok exposure between them. On top of that I only use RAW, so again that gives a little latitude. But the thing that you'll never ever be able to recover is unsharpness. So although there are downsides to split screen, to me they're worth it. And if you ever invest in manual lenses (which 80% of mine now are after only half a year), you won't be able to do without them. The green hex still works, but green hex & splitscreen just makes things better. Liveview - I've used it a bit for focusing, especially zoomed up but zoomed up always looks out of focus to me - I just find splitscreen easier. Years of use I guess.
02-11-2010, 07:49 AM   #10
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I'm a manual man with fast primes and I use Katzeyes on all my cameras.

In fact I don't leave home without one.
02-11-2010, 08:24 AM   #11
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Are any of these better for the K7? Focusing Screen
02-11-2010, 09:21 AM   #12
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@ Fl_Gulfer - Did you have an aftermarket screen for any of the bodies you owned before the K-7?

The cut down Nikon K3 screen should be pretty much the same as the basic KatzEye screen (which I have for my K10d) as from what I've read the KatzEye is cut from a K3.

I like microprism screens for fast lenses, say f/2.8 or better, but find that the one in my film body gets dark and is difficult to use with slower lenses. A split prism with a microprism collar is probably a better choice for an all purpose screen that will also be used with slower lenses in the f/5.6 to f/8 range.
02-11-2010, 09:47 AM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by Fl_Gulfer Quote
Are any of these better for the K7? Focusing Screen
I've got the "K-7 K3 Focusing Screen (Grid)". Works fine, no shims needed.
02-11-2010, 05:15 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by paulelescoces Quote
I Also ran into the same issue when I got a K50 1.4 for my K20D... what appeared to be in focus via the VF was clearly not.

catch in focus is 1 option... but as you said (mud slinging), it is a bit hit and miss as the focus confirmation is very generous.

I currently use 3 techniques...

1) only use wide open if you really need it.... stopping down your problems will dissapear as you have a wider dof.... however I suspect you use this lens when you really "need" it wide open.... bear in mind however that you can typically use the K20 till ISO1600... noise can be handled in PP and unless you pixelpeep looks good.

2) machine gun... knowing that the focus confirmation is hit of miss.... start where it appears to start being in focus and fire of shots while making incremental focus adjustments.

3) live view... can be a bit tedious but is far easier to see the thin dof... and hence get focus spot on while using live view....

I typically use options 1 and/or 3
Wide open at ISO1600 I was shooting at 1/45 for a few lucky shots, otherwise it was 20 or 30. As mentioned before, if I would have bumped it to 60, I could have saved most of them in PP. I haven't used live view, I'll try that. I also like option 2.

I'll probably break down and get the Katzeye. After reading everyone's comments and reflecting, I think I'm going to tend to get some more prime manuals. After doing some PP on my pics, I can see that I would have had some high-quality photos given the circumstances if I had correct focus and bumped up the shutter a bit. As it turned out, I got almost 60 shots that will at least do a decent job of documenting the event and its mood. Thanks for the input everyone.
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